TAMPA — Like other drivers racing the clock, Angel DeJesus often faces a dilemma: He can sit in traffic and risk showing up late or take the Busch Boulevard exit and travel up Nebraska Avenue.
DeJesus is a mover. He's supposed to keep his 26-foot moving truck off narrow streets whenever possible, but he also knows that come 4 p.m., traffic on northbound Interstate 275 can back up nearly a mile, from the Fowler Avenue exit to Busch Boulevard.
The decision? It often comes down to timing. Taking Busch can save 20 minutes, he says.
"From 4 to 6 o'clock, I don't even come down here. It's that bad," said DeJesus, 32, of Tampa.
Thousands of other drivers face similar dilemmas each afternoon rush hour. They can either sit in traffic or exit the interstate before or after Fowler.
The Department of Transportation says it has a fix. This week, work crews will begin revamping the Fowler exit ramp.
Most of the work will happen at night, department spokesman John McShaffrey said. Any lane closures on the interstate will be scheduled after rush hour.
The first closure, scheduled to end today, has shut two of three northbound lanes, from north of Busch to north of Fowler.
Crews will use the time to re-stripe the highway, shifting lanes to accommodate construction. Two lanes will again be closed from Sunday through Tuesday.
"We're doing this project for safety reasons," McShaffrey said. "With traffic backing up onto the interstate, that's obviously nothing we want at any interchange."
The project, which is to be paid for with federal highway safety funds, will add a 3,300-foot exit-only lane to the existing single-lane ramp, so that two lanes of traffic will be able to exit at Fowler. The existing exit lane will then become an optional through or right-exit lane.
At the bottom of the ramp, engineers will add two right-turn lanes to the single lane currently at the interchange. That will create five lanes at the bottom of the ramp: two lanes for left turns onto westbound Fowler and three for right turns onto eastbound Fowler.
The right-turn lanes will be controlled by a new traffic signal. On average, about 17,500 cars take the Fowler exit daily.
Twyla Pumroy of Hyde Park was eager for the work to start.
A University of South Florida student, Pumroy said she often takes the Fletcher Avenue exit, but prefers Fowler so she can grab a bite at her favorite restaurant before class.
The only problem is the start-and-stop traffic as cars merge and then wait in line to get onto Fowler. The backups often stretch past Busch, she said.
"I drive a stick and my leg is throbbing (from the clutch) by the time I get to school," she said. "The traffic at that time of day is just a nightmare."
McShaffrey said the project is expected to last about a year.